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For a brief moment, audiences have
flashbacks of Spielberg's 2004 disaster,
The Terminal, and leave the theater
screaming.

Munich
Review written by: Alex Sandell

What Munich is and what Munich isn't

Munich isn't the next Schindler's List.  It's not the next Saving Private Ryan.  Hell, it's not even the next War of the WorldsMunich is Steven Spielberg at his most flaccid.  Not since Hook has the director been so badly in need of a creative shot of Viagra. 

Munich is also the director at his most pandering.  Spielberg wants awards for this one, and he wants lots of 'em.  The film itself isn't important, but it's self-important as hell. 

Throughout the movie Steve balances on a tightrope between both sides of the never-ending battle between the Palestinians and the Israelis.  Both sides will inevitably think the director is favoring the other and the rest of us will be bored out of our skulls. 

Did Hollywood editors go on strike?

The movie's three hours long because it can be -- much like last month's King Kong.  Since Spielberg doesn't have much to say, he should have just trimmed it down and made it a taut little thriller, loosely based on a true story. 

No, the film must feel epic.  And that's it's problem.  Schindler's List was epic.  Spielberg was putting his heart and soul on the screen and the audience could tell.  People, including myself, left that theater in dead silence -- shocked by what they had just witnessed on the silver screen.  Those same people won't be silent this time, but they will be shocked at the wasted potential that is the highly pretentious Munich.

The film begins with the terrifying terrorist attacks that occurred at the 1972 Olympics.  Spielberg never succeeds in capturing the dread and fear that came with those attacks.  If you want to see this done right, pick up a copy of the chilling documentary, One Day in September

(review continued below)

Instead of focusing on the horror of the Olympic tragedy, Spielberg has The Incredible Hulk (Eric Bana) heading a team of Government sponsored vigilantes whose mission it is to kill the people involved with the attacks of that day.  They're working in secret and the Israeli Government will deny all knowledge of the assassinations, if the group is caught.

Bana's character is sort of like Mission Impossible's Ethan Hunt -- only with an Oscar-baiting guilt complex.  He's not sure if he's killing to further the cause for peace or simply committing cold-blooded murder.  Spielberg leaves the question dangling, for the audience to decide for themselves.  That may be the biggest problem with this plodding film -- Spielberg & Co. ask some pretty complex questions, only to dismiss them when they aren't easily answered.

The movie consists of the vigilante group going around killing people, feeling guilty about killing people, killing more people, and then feeling even guiltier about it.  Instead of keeping the film moving, it slows to a crawl with elongated scenes of the group questioning their actions.  There are also flashbacks to the events that happened at the Olympics, that pop on the screen in random fashion and add nothing to the movie.

To stretch the film out to an even more absurd length, there's a senseless subplot involving some rich dude who likes to be called "Papa" (Michael Lonsdale).  Papa's son, sells Bana's character the names of the terrorists involved in the Olympic tragedy.  The son had a reason to be there, but what in God's name did Papa have to do with anything?  Did Hollywood run out of cutting room floor space?  The whole thing had me wondering if Tinsel town's editors went on strike. 

It may be bloated, but it's not all bad

Steven Spielberg doesn't flinch in his portrayal of violence in the film.  This isn't a Saw or Friday the 13th.  You don't want to cheer when the anti-hero makes a kill.  The murders in the picture are repulsive.  They make you want to turn away from the screen.  Spielberg captured what violent death looks like, and it ain't pretty. 

As the best suspense director since Alfred Hitchcock, Mr. Spielberg never fails to put at least one or two heart-pounding moments in his films.  Munich has exactly two.  One, involving a young girl and a telephone, will have you digging your nails into the arms of your movie theater seat.  If you're religious, you may even say a prayer. 

None of the acting stands out, but none of it's bad.  Eric Bana does his best to gain back some respect after his pathetic portrayal of Bruce Banner in Hulk, and nearly succeeds.  He cries in all the right places and gives proper looks of regret when called for.  He also bows his head in remorse with the best of them.  Oh, and when asked, he gets naked for the camera.  Is it an award worthy performance?  Not in my opinion.  But his is a conflicted enough character to earn him a nomination from the gullible (and persuadable) Academy. 

Much like Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong; Munich is a damn good hour and 45 minute movie, that turns mediocre by running up its length to the three hour point.  Not even the film's biggest defenders could come up with a reason why this film needed to be so painfully long.  Some movies need a 3 hour length.  Gandhi, Amadeus, and Schindler's List all warranted their 180 minutes.  Munich is excessive. 

Stop trying so hard, Steve-O!

It feels like Spielberg is using every last minute in Munich to beg the Academy to honor him once more.  What happened to the Spielberg who just wanted to entertain?  When did he start caring so much about being taking "seriously" as an artist?  Steven Spielberg should stop worrying about winning shiny statues and start focusing on creating good films.  Maybe then he'd deserve to take home another trophy or two.  

 

There's nothing this movie critic likes more than discussing movies with fellow film fanatics. He's even getting better at replying. Agree? Disagree? Doesn't matter. Let's talk film!  Email Alex!

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5

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